A while back I was at my local comic book store and I noticed some assorted comics with the Watchmen logo on them that said at the top “After Watchmen…What’s Next?”. This kind of corporate shill bootstrapping makes me sick sometimes, but the idea was to make certain larger graphic novels (Sandman and this one especially) more accessible to the noobs like myself, which I can appreciate. It was only a dollar for the first chapter of one of these said novels, so I took a look through the pile and this one jumped out at me:

Transmetropolitan

I had a vague recollection of hearing this was good, and that Warren Ellis was a very talented writer, so I decided to check it out. One of the best dollars I have ever spent.

Summary: Transmetropolitan is the story of Spider Jerusalem, a political cult reporter who got disillusioned and holed up in a cabin in the mountains, blasting anything that got too close. Unfortunately, before he left, he made a deal with a publishing house to write two books, which he never intended on. Now, the time has come to pay the piper, and Spider must return to the city he hates, get his old journalism job back to pay for expenses, and finish both books within one year or be sued into debtors’ jail.

There is a lot to love, just in this first chapter of the story. It’s funny, in a very dark way, and its vision of the cyberpunk future is colorful while still being somewhat bleak. The characters are especially vibrant, in design and in personality, and they leave impressions even if they don’t have a lot of panel time.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am a huge Hunter S. Thompson fan, and that Spider shares more than a few traits with him. In fact, though I have not researched it, I’m willing to bet that Ellis based Spider off of him, at least a little. In fact, the whole world feels a little like a Gonzo hallucination, with reality stretched to zany proportions.

Art: The art is quite solid and consistent, which is a miracle seeing how crowded the panels can get. To represent this weird world, every panel is colorful and vibrant, and while it can get a bit busy sometimes, the artist (Darick Robertson, I think) is skilled at keeping it from becoming distracting, and even with all the little things going on, nothing ever feels bland.

Writing: As mentioned above, the characters’ personalities match the art. Everyone is interesting and no one allows themselves to be forgotten. One of the reasons this is amazing is that nothing in the comic ever feels like exposition. Without realizing it we are filled in on who Spider Jerusalem is and why he does what he does (as much as can be done in this one chapter anyway).

If I were to have a complaint about the writing though, it would be that it is not for everyone. As I stated before I am a huge HST fan, so an abrasive, foul and violent style of storytelling really doesn’t throw me off, but some people might not be able to get into it so easily, especially because it can be a bit eccentric (for example: near the beginning, Spider passes by a Bar he frequented in the last 5 years, reminisces, and then proceeds to fire a rocket at it), and a bit wordy.

Overall: If these small complaints don’t bother you, then I highly recommend that you check out Transmetropolitan. It’s a unique and interesting story that requires no former knowledge of comics. I hope that the industry does more “sample” comics like this, as it is a great way to get new people like me into the medium, looking at material that we wouldn’t of gotten into beforehand.

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